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Workhouse children in Eaton Square, 25 June 1906

Workhouse children in Eaton Square, London, 25 June 1906

​Charles Dickens created the popular contemporary view of the nineteenth century workhouse system in his novel Oliver Twist. It’s a bleak picture of punishment, cruelty and neglect. But what do the archives from this period tell us about life in the workhouses after 1834 and the passing of the Poor Law (Amendment) Act?

The act sought to abolish out-relief and ensure that any relief provided by the new Poor Law Guardians was given within the confines of a workhouse. The records provide insights into the ways in which the Poor Law Guardians sought to run their workhouses and deal with the variety of people who had fallen on hard times.

The records at London Metropolitan Archives are a rich source for the social and architectural history of the period as well as for tracing the history of people admitted to the workhouses. Inspired by Dickens and his desire to reveal the horrors of nineteenth century poverty, we’ve searched the records for the stories of real Londoners in the workhouse, from Master to the inmate, to uncover what the archives tell us about their lives.

This exhibition closed on 10 January 2013, but...

20 September 2012
Last Modified:
05 April 2013